In the Spotlight : Gayle Brooker

Surrounded by artists in her family, Gayle Brooker, originally of Greenville, SC, fell in love with photography at an early age leading her to complete a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2002.

Following RISD, Brooker accepted a teaching position at the College of Charleston as the sabbatical replacement for the Head of the Photography program during the 2003-04 school year. In 2004, she moved to New York City and for the next three years worked for established editorial and wedding photographers.

While in NYC, she started her own business as a wedding and editorial photographer. Her work has appeared in the editorial publications of InStyle Weddings, Modern Bride, Charleston Weddings, Unveiled, Elegant Bride, Brides New York, Brides New Jersey, The Knot North Carolina, Victoria Magazine, and Family Circle.

Aaaaand, she’s not going to say this about herself, so I will. She’s a killer cook, an old soul, a gentle spirit, a gracious presence, and a general joy to work with- so read more below!

Calder: If you could shoot a wedding anywhere in the world, where would it be?
GB: I have to say that I feel really lucky that I get to shoot weddings regularly in Charleston, SC. We have many incredible venues and the afternoon light is gorgeous. However, I love to travel and to be able to do both things I love, shoot weddings and travel, well that would be amazing! Right now, I am really into the European look, romantic and historical, cobblestone streets, crumbling walls, gilded mirrors, soft earth tones, elegant but with an edge of decay, landscapes like a Tuscan vineyard or lavender fields in the South of France or breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea or (clearly not in Europe) the English countryside with their wild spectacular gardens. This is really making me want to go somewhere soon!

Calder: What’s the one thing you wish you could say outright to every bride, but you feel like you can’t, out of decorum + propriety?
GB: When it comes to speaking to my brides, I am actually very open and honest. Most often I meeting the bride for the first time on the day of her wedding, therefore I need to build trust quickly. I am a keen observer and sensitive to the different interactions taking place and it is my role is to help her stay calm and happy so that I can get the shots, in the end, we both want. The bottom line is that it’s not about me or anyone else other than the bride and groom on their wedding day. If I can make them happy and relaxed and get beautiful photographs of them throughout the day then I am super happy and nothing else matters.

Calder: What’s your take on the controversial “First Peek”, where the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony?
GB: Right, the “first peek controversy”. Here is where I stand: if there is plenty of beautiful natural light after your ceremony, I am happy to wait. But if the sun has set or is setting during your ceremony, I want a first peek prior to the ceremony. This is how I present the “first peek” to my clients in the latter situation. You have hired me to photograph your wedding because you have made a deep connection to my work, you see yourself in those images. My strongsuit is using the natural light to its fullest capacity. Sunlight has energy and romance and power to transform the photograph. Once the light is gone, all I can use is artificial lighting which tends to be, in my opinion, a little stiff for portraits. Let’s create a special and private viewing for only the two of you. We can pick a beautiful location on the wedding site and I will photograph you all for 15-20 minutes. The light will be gorgeous and you all will be excited and overwhelmed with love for each other. Then you can go back to your separate rooms freshen up and get ready for the coming ceremony. After the ceremony, you will be happy and thrilled to celebrate immediately with your family and friends.

Calder: Three words (or a phrase) that epitomize your style:
GB: romantic, playful, and a quiet elegance

Calder: One of your top favorite images from 2010?
GB: This is one of my favorites from 2010! It was really hot that day and the bride and groom wanted to do all the portraits before the ceremony. After the portraits, the bride went inside to cool off before the ceremony. I just happened to be standing behind her when she decided to undress partly. I quickly took a few shots and then made sure it was okay to be photographing her and to my fortune, she agreed!

Calder: Best store (online or not) for great reception finds?
GB: There are so many incredible wedding blogs out there that find lots of cool stuff. Other than the wedding blogs, here are a few other blogs to find inspiration: Design*Sponge, Oh Joy!, and Simple Song.

Calder: No wedding is complete without . . .
GB: lots of laughter & love and without fail, some crazy dancing.


  1. charlotte

    I adore Gayle! She is a fabulous photographer and a true artiste! I love her favorite image from 2010, it’s so beautiful!